Who among us does not read consumer reviews before buying an online product? Or eating out at a new restaurant? Or choosing a service provider?
These seem to me to be a valuable dimension of the online marketplace, and they have become very important to the businesses getting reviewed. I appreciate it when companies post an answer to a negative review, pledging to address the problems that were noted. For the marketplace to be responsive to consumers, it needs information, and now that information–from feedback to businesses to warnings and testimonials to fellow consumers–is now instantly available.
And yet it invites fraud. I read one estimate that 10% of reviews are faked. Businesses can review themselves, or cajole or even pay other people to give them a 5-star review. Review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor try to police that as best they can.
Now Amazon, which posts reviews not only for books but for practically everything it sells, is suing up to 1,000 writers who are part of a scheme to post positive reviews for $5 apiece. [Read more...]